A Simple Dinner, and Complex Truths

by Patricia Yarberry Allen

Dinner for three turned into dinner for five, as so often happens with women as we think of another way to network and mentor. We over 40 understand the magic of unexpected encounters.

Jacki Lyden, of National Public Radio fame, invited me to join a dinner last night with a mutual friend (and the owner of the most extensive rolodex in America), Mary Moss Greenebaum. We were interested in discussing a project that is underway but underfunded: “The Secret Lives of Girls.” The Kitchen Sisters, those enigmatic women of the West Coast who are NPR regulars, are running out of money to create a series of their special interviews to be built around stories that begin with the lives of girls who have gone on to become women of interest.

I decided to invite a new friend, “T”, who is 24 and was from Darjeeling originally. She has now graduated from a prestigious college; she's beautiful, speaks nine languages,has wonderful manners and is in transition. Jacki invited another young friend, “N”, who is 30, also from India and a graduate of Oxford. She is very interested in public policy and currently working for a think tank affiliated with the UN. It occurred to me that these two might be Girls with Secret Lives who certainly would go on to fulfill the promise of their journeys.
We spanned almost all the adult decades last night. We, the women of wisdom born of experience, spoke about the mean streets of the 20’s and 30’s and urged our younger guests to remain hopeful that the 40’s would bring resolution to many things that are at sixes and sevens at their current age and stage. I think they were a bit surprised that we had no interest in being their age.
Then we recognized how we were all in the mentoring business. Mary, the founder of the Kentucky Author Forum, has mentored me from the time I was 20 (Mary's “Your shoes should never talk, Pat” goes with me whenever I feel the need to go to the second floor of Bergi’s). Jacki was kind enough to list me as a mentor in her time of transition in her 40’s. N. realized that Jacki was her current mentor. And we pointed out to N. that she could now join the joyful women’s’ circle of giving back by becoming a mentor to T. Of course, I hope that T will allow me to mentor her from the sidelines as well.
This was not networking in that “let’s find out how to do business together”. This was a night of sharing experiences and new friends and places with each other, to broaden vistas, to explore possibilities and to commit to shared multi-generational relationships.

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